The marina buzzed with activity as our five-person crew carted tackle, ice, drinks and camera gear to the new Wellcraft 262 Fisherman for a morning of trolling in the waters off Sarasota, Florida. Blue LED courtesy lights gave the 262 a mystical glow and helped guide our way in the pre-dawn darkness as we stepped aboard from the floating dock, using the starboard swim platform and transom door in the aft quarter.
Joining me on this warm September morning were local guide, Capt. Ron Gauthier; Wellcraft marine designer, Erik Rogers; Sport Fishing publisher, Dave Morel; and Sport Fishing videographer Christopher Balogh.
I was struck by the amount of deck space aboard the 262. The crew had plenty of room to maneuver, and enjoyed beaucoup stowage for tackle, including a row of six rod holders across the transom and two holders abaft the helm seat. The deluxe hardtop (a $977 upgrade from the standard hardtop) featured five vertical holders across the back, plus two angled holders for trolling rods. Additional features included aft LED spreader lights, dome lights and an electronics box.
I discovered horizontal racks for rods, gaffs, boat hooks and deck brushes under each gunwale. The bow deck featured lockable rod stowage and cavernous dry hatches.
Tilt-out compartments for tackle boxes reside within both inwales, and additional tackle stowage is found on each side of the covered optional 25-gallon main livewell behind the deluxe helm seats (all part of the helm seat/baitwell $515 upgrade). An additional tackle-box compartment is located in the port quarter.
The livewell includes a huge, tempered-safety-glass window for keeping your eye on baits. Recesses with elastic cords keep items such as lure bags, hand towels and fishing caps secure while underway. The module is topped by a cutting board/bait-prep table.
We iced our drinks in the Orca 42-quart cooler on the bow deck, which slides back and forth on tracks. Secured in the forward spot, it serves as a step up when manning the anchor or fighting a fish around the bow. Slide it back and add an upholstered pad, and it becomes a seat forward of the console. Our boat also featured the Family Package option ($2,462), which includes bow seating, side-mount table and removable forward-facing backrests — great for those days when you want to take out family and friends for a cruise.
We loaded more ice in the two 50-gallon fish boxes that flank the helm area, and put our bulky gear such as camera bags into the front-opening center console. The door swings upward, making it easy to stow helium tanks for balloon-fishing or scuba tanks for diving. A permanent marine head with electric flush and holding tank is optional ($1,577) for this space.
Gauthier fired up the twin Mercury 250 Verado outboards just as the sun peeked over the horizon. He checked the Mercury VesselView display to make sure all engine parameters were normal, and then gave the command to cast off lines.
“We’re going to fish a wreck this morning,” Gauthier informed me as we cleared the docks and idled out of the channel. He called up the chart-plotter function on the optional Garmin GPSMAP 7610xsv multifunction display and pointed to a waypoint about 12 miles offshore. “We might find some cobia or even permit,” he revealed. “But we will certainly get a barracuda or two.”
Gauthier brought up the Verados to 4,000 rpm, which propelled the 262 across the flat water of Sarasota Bay at a brisk 38 mph. The sleek, tall tempered-safety-glass windshield protected the bridge from wind blast yet offered excellent forward visibility.
Before exiting the bay, we stopped at the New Pass Grill & Bait Shop to pick up packs of frozen ballyhoo, which we stowed in the now-empty 17-gallon livewell in the starboard quarter. A freshwater faucet is integrated near the top of the livewell. A third, 23-gallon covered livewell resides in the port quarter for taking extra bait.
As we headed offshore in calm and windless conditions, I perched in one of the two helm chairs that feature flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests. Two tiers of footrests at the base of the console are positioned nicely for bracing your legs.
Crew members standing in the aft cockpit while underway used the convenient handholds on the bait-prep table to steady themselves, while others deployed the fold-down transom bench seat to relax en route.
As we approached Gauthier’s wreck, he set out a pair of nylon-hair trolling lures with rigged ballyhoo underneath, placing the rods in the angled rod holders on the hardtop. As we trolled along at about 1,000 rpm and 5 mph, it did not take long to find fish. The port rod doubled over and the clicker screamed. Rogers picked up the rod as line poured off the reel. He braced himself against the padded coaming bolsters in the port quarter as he battled the fish. Elsewhere in the boat, MarineMatt coaming bolsters help cushion your legs.
At deep color, we could tell the fish was a great barracuda. Gauthier opened the optional inward-opening dive door ($3,731) on the port side to lift the fish aboard for photos before release.
As we continued to troll, I checked out other features. This 262 featured the Scarab Offshore Package ($885), which includes MarineMatt decking at the helm, in the forward rod locker and at strategic points along the gunwales to protect fishing reels. You also get a tri-tone gelcoat scheme, special graphics and an upgraded cockpit interior.
In the bow, the 262 comes equipped with a stainless-steel anchor roller, and our boat featured the optional vertical windlass ($2,323).
My inspection was abruptly interrupted by another hookup — a leaping fish astern eliminated any guesswork. It was a second barracuda. Rogers again took the rod and landed the fish in short order. At the same time, fish began to boil all around the boat, prompting Morel to cast a small lure from the bow. Almost immediately he hooked a small bonito. The wreck was alive with fish, and we went on that morning to catch several more barracuda, as well as bonito and jacks.
After three hours of nonstop action, we decided to gather performance data. Carrying 106 gallons of fuel and spinning a Mercury Mirage Plus 21-inch-pitch propeller, the 262 reached 30 mph in 7.5 seconds. Top speed was 57.4 mph at 6,000 rpm, where the twin 250 hp Verados burned 52 gallons of fuel per hour for 1.1 mpg. The best fuel efficiency occurred at 33.8 mph (3,500 rpm), where the twin outboards burned 18 gallons per hour for 1.9 mpg.
Seas were flat during this Fish Trial, so I did not get the chance to thoroughly vet the rough-water capability of the 262. Doubling back on our own wake gave me an idea of how well the deep-V hull would handle waves; the 262 landed smoothly and dryly every time.
During my turn at the wheel, I found that the hull handled marvelously. It tracked straight and true with barely any correction needed to stay on course. Cornering at high speed proved predictable and comfortable, and close-quarter maneuverability was superb thanks to the Mercury power steering and digital throttle and shift.
The 262 proves itself a capable fishing machine that offers great performance and style. This Wellcraft also provides plenty of space and comfortable seating — important considerations when taking out a boatload of people, be it on a serious offshore-fishing trip or a leisurely cruise.
Wellcraft 262 Fisherman Performance Specifications
Power: Twin Mercury 250 Verado outboards
Load: 106 gal. fuel, five crew
Top Speed: 57.4 mph @ 6.000 rpm
Time to 30 mph: 7.5 sec.
Best MPG: 1.9 @ 33.8 mph (3,500 rpm)
Wellcraft 262 Fisherman Hull Specifications
LOA: 26 ft. 4 in.
Beam: 9 ft.
Deadrise: 21 deg.
Dry Weight: 5,500 lb. (w/o engine)
Draft: 2 ft. 5 in. (engines down)
Fuel: 158 gal.
Max Power: 500 hp
Base MSRP: $130,323 (w/ twin Mercury 250 Verados)